Mountain Stages Bring the Holidays to Life
By Janet Moore
Seasons Greetings Through Music & Drama
Asheville’s musical roots run deep and long. From Cherokee drum beats and toe-tapping Celtic tunes to symphonic harmonies and the driving beat of Indie Rock, the city’s music scene reflects its rich cultural heritage. And while the 27th Annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam benefitting Habitat for Humanity is sold out, there is still plenty of music to get you in the holiday spirit and keep you there.
A hallmark of the holidays is Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Nutcracker. This year, the Diana Wortham Theatre presents multiple interpretations of E.T.A. Hoffman’s imaginative tale set to music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky presented by local dance companies. While at the U.S. Cellular Center, The Moscow Ballet performs the Great Russian Nutcracker with glittering costumes, balanced arabesques and romantic pas de deux befitting this Russian classic.
In the mood for something theatrical?
All is Calm, The Christmas Truce of 1914 by the NC Stage Company remembers the poignant moment in World War I when Allied and German soldiers came out of the trenches and laid down their arms to celebrate the holiday together.
Asheville Community Theatre’s production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever tells the amusing tale of the six Herman children, the town terrors, whose performance in the annual Christmas pageant helps everyone rediscover the meaning of the season. And in The Asheville Community Theatre’s 35 Below, an intimate black box performance space, the 14th annual production David Sedaris’ hilarious one-man-act Santaland Diaries generates plenty of laughter.
What would Christmas be without Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? You can see the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, performed by the Montford Park Players at the Asheville Masonic Temple.
And a raucous crowd favorite, The 42nd Annual Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular returns to the Magnetic Theatre this year. Get a sitter for the kids and prepare for a hilarious night out.
On the Music Scene
There’s no shortage of secular and sacred holiday, classical and contemporary music in venues large and small.
At the U.S. Cellular Center, The Asheville Symphony celebrates the 100th birthday of “Old Blue Eyes,” with Simply Sinatra Christmas featuring noted Sinatra interpreter Steve Lippia singing holiday favorites like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Let It Snow,” as well as other crooner classics.
Want to make a joyful noise? Why not join the Asheville Symphony Chorus, under the direction of Dr. Michael Lancaster, for the community sing-along of Handel’s Messiah at First Presbyterian Church. The recently- renovated Holtkamp Organ provides impressive accompaniment for this beloved oratorio. Or, plan for an evening of singing Winter Songs with songwriters Beth and Jim Magill at the Diana Wortham Theatre.
The 12th Annual Swannanoa Solstice, part of The Diana Wortham Theatre’s Mainstage Series, celebrates the season with a joyous and contemplative performance of Celtic, Scots-Irish and world-influenced music featuring Doug Orr and a host award-winning recording artists, storytellers and dancers. Share a cup of wassail and join the tradition.
In between appearances by a variety of national recording artists local musical venues feature a variety of holiday-inspired performances:
- The Orange Peel celebrates the holidays with multiple performances of Three Spirits: A Multi-Media Performance of the Christmas Carol, Hometown Holiday Jam XV, and the Wizards of Winter featuring original members of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
- Down in the River Arts District, The Grey Eagle hosts Jeffry Butzer and the Bicycle Eaters performing Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas, along with their regular weekly contra dances.
- Throughout December, Isis Restaurant & Music Hall features music to satisfy a variety of tastes, from the weekly Sunday Jazz Showcase and Tuesday Bluegrass Sessions to a Winter Soul Concert featuring local favorites Kat Williams, Sidney Barnes and the Richard Shulman Trio and the Fourth Annual Bluegrass Holiday Benefit featuring Town Mountain and The Larry Keel Experience.
- At Jack of the Wood, there’s no shortage of traditional Celtic and Bluegrass music to be heard. This year’s lineup includes Piper Jones’ Celtic Christmas Holiday Show.
Asheville’s beautiful Blue Ridge really does come alive with the sound of music in December. Click here for a full calendar of events.
Photo credits from top: Santaland Diaries by Rodney Smith / Tempus Fugit Designs; The Nutcracker by Dathan Brannon, courtesy of Asheville Ballet; Swannanoa Solstice by Sandra Stambaugh.